We propose a general method called convolution-variation separation (CVS) to enable efficient optical imaging calculations without sacrificing accuracy when simulating images for a wide range of process variations. The CVS method is derived from first principles using a series expansion, which consists of a set of predetermined basis functions weighted by a set of predetermined expansion coefficients. The basis functions are independent of the process variations and thus may be computed and stored in advance, while the expansion coefficients depend only on the process variations. Optical image simulations for defocus and aberration variations with applications in robust inverse lithography technology and lens aberration metrology have demonstrated the main concept of the CVS method.
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